Behind the Exhibit: Introducing a new baby rhino

Behind the Exhibit: Introducing a new baby rhino (KTUL)

If you've ever welcomed a new pet into your home, then you know that introduction process takes time. Even more so when you're dealing with a thousand-pound rhino trucked in from a far off zoo.

"At first, we always have a 30-day quarantine period where we check out any animal we get new at the zoo to make sure they don't have any kind of sickness or anything we don't know about previously," said Jorel Martin, one of the rhino zookeepers.

You're getting a first look at Rudo, the one-and-a-half-year-old rhino who just finished up his quarantine period after arriving from the Fresno Zoo.

Now, things get really interesting. Once they get through the whole quarantine process, which is now complete, they go into something called the "howdying phase," as in "howdy," introducing the two rhinos to each other and then eventually you'll see them out here in the yard together.

The zoo's older rhino, Jeannie, has been here for close to 40 years and is already warming up to the young rhino through a concrete fence. In preparation for them being together, they have trimmed down Jeannie's horn, which the zoo ensures is a painless process.

"Basically, we just took her horn and, using the blade, just hit it to get her used to the sensation of that while she was being fed the whole time. She was being reinforced with real good treats, so imagine your favorite treat and then for a rhino. It's like going to the salon, getting your nails done and you're being fed, that's a pretty good experience," said Zookeeper Eric Flossic.

"That way when we do put them together, we have less chance of her harming him, either intentionally or unintentionally," said Martin.

But introducing the rhinos is just part of it. There are many species in that exhibit, like the warthogs.

"Jeannie is a 38-year-old rhino, she's old and set in her ways," Flossic said. "Rudo is young and energetic and will want to be running around. The interactions they have with her will be totally different from what they have with him."

Keep your eyes peeled on the rhino yard in the coming weeks and months as all those animals welcome their newest roommate, Rudo.

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